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Since most companies today have some sort of social responsibility agenda, there is an argument to be made that some profit from each good sold or service provided goes to a "charitable" cause. Is there some reason this should be a defense to price-fixing, all other things being equal? In a capitalistic system, I see no good reason why it should. It's a slippery slope, I think, to say that as long as the price-fixing is doing some good, the consumer, who is the one who pays the padded price, is being cheated, or, at the very least, being forced to make a contribution that he or she has not chosen to make, without even the benefit of a tax deduction.
Forming commercial cabals through backdoor collusion to fix prices seems like a bad thing. In this case, as in most cases, the ends do not justify the means, even if the end includes donating to charity. Lying and manipulating a commercial system for personal gain that will be shared with a charity still starts with lying and manipulating a commercial system...
There are better ways to contribute to charity.
I do not think it matters where the money goes. There have been many cases where a business supposedly was a charity or gave money to a charity, but it was really a front for corrupt activity. You never know what is really going on.
I agree with the previous post in that people should be given the choice of donating to charity. If the firms want to all get together and say "we're all raising prices 5 cents and that 5 cents will go to charity," that seems okay because people can choose to buy the product or not with full knowledge of what is going on. Otherwise, it's not good even if the money is going to charity.
One other thing to consider -- what if you don't like the charity the money is going to? Then you're getting hurt two ways. You have to pay more and the money goes to something you don't like.
Assume you are a business person with an opportunity to make more money by meeting with competitors and fixing prices, conduct which is illegal. The authorities will not discover that the prices have been fixed. In fact, the price rise could be small-pennies per item-but the increases in net profit could be considerable
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